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Net Zero Energy Homes: An Environmentally- Sustainable Solution for Low to Moderate Income Buyers

Originally published on thealmostdone.com

Net zero energy (NZE) homes produce as much renewable energy as they consume, allowing for a carbon-free, net-zero energy cost. Traditional buildings consume carbon-based energy, contributing to greenhouse gases. Net-zero energy homes are therefore an environmental alternative. But this is not the only advantage: they are also a sustainable solution for low to moderate income buyers.

NZE homes rely heavily on design, research and computer modeling to achieve energy efficiency. They are insulated, air-tight, using spray-foam, high-efficiency solar panels, heat pumps, low-E triple-glazed windows and very efficient HVAC as well as lighting technologies. Once minimization of energy expenditure has been achieved, the energy needed may be generated via solar panels, wind, and other clean technologies.

The 2018 Getting to Zero National Forum anticipated that low-income populations will stand to benefit massively from NZE homes. Below, long-time community and real estate planning expert, Denise Hamet, shares the four main ways in which NZE homes can be a solution for low to moderate income buyers

  1. NZE homes save money on energy bills. For low-income families, energy is a massive expense: as much as 20% of incomes. A zero-energy goal is becoming more important as costs of alternative clean energy technologies decrease and traditional fossil fuels prices increase.
  2. NZE homes contribute to lowering pollution. It is low-income families who suffer most from a polluted environment and are most likely to endure related health effects. The massive use of NZE homes will decrease pollution.
  3. NZE homes help to solve the housing need. There is an increased need for low to mid-income housing. Some estimate that worldwide, 70% of the population will live in cities by 2030. Another big trend is that populations are aging. Americans aged 65 and above will more than double by the year 2060. The result will be denser cities, with a need for more and more housing. NZE homes will provide sustainable housing, with low overhead. Also, they will provide new affordable solutions, such as sustainable ‘missing middle housing’, which carries a smaller environmental impact, lower expenditures, at the same time that it fosters community and social cohesion.
  4. NZE homes will eventually match standard homes in pricing. The price will vary depending on the costs of utilities, climate, installation, and construction. Low energy bills may very well end up saving more than the up-front purchasing expense and as technology increases standard homes and NZE homes are projected to have comparable prices.

In sum, one might imagine net-zero energy (NZE) homes as something for people with high purchasing power. However, NZE is not merely for wealthy people. These homes can be an environmentally-sustainable solution for low to moderate income buyers too. California wants all new residences to be NZE by the year 2020. South Miami passed a similar measure. The future seems ripe with opportunity for this clean technology, with an aspiration to reach a wide array of customers.

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